Transcending the Traditional Web

A blog about building compelling, mobile and web-enabled software solutions.

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  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    31 Days of Mango: #31AwesomeWPDevTutorials

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    31If you’re looking to start learning Windows Phone 7.5 development, this could be the perfect place for you to start!  Jeff Blankenburg from Microsoft has compiled (or rather, at the time of publication of this post is compiling) a series of 31 tutorials on how to implement Windows Phone 7.5 Apps.

    The tutorials are “snack-sized”, meaning they won’t take you three hours to go through and they have been laid out to provide you with a learning path to getting comfortable with Windows Phone 7.5 development so you can create awesome apps for Windows Phone.  Basically, Jeff is providing a new tutorial every day in the month of November (2011).  Below is a list of these tutorials:

    Day1-EmulatorToolsDay2-DeviceStatusDay3-RemindersDay4-CompassDay5-GyroscopeDay6-MotionDay7-RawCameraDay8-ContactsAPIDay9-CalendarAPIDay10-NetworkInformationDay11-LiveTilesDay12-BetaTestingDay13-MarketplaceTestKitDay14-ODataDay15-ProgressBarDay16-IsolatedStorageExplorerDay17-WindowsAzureDay18-ExpressionBlendSampleDataDay19-AddingTiltEffectsDay20-RingtonesDay21-Sockets

    Check them out and let me know what you think of them!

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Hey you. Yeah, you. Wanna Windows Phone?

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    Now that I’ve caught your attention with the title of this post, I want to introduce you to a really great promotion we are holding at Microsoft Canada for you as a mobile app developer (by the way, when I write “app”, I actually mean “app or game”).

    One of the biggest comments that I get when talking to people interested in building an app for Windows Phone is that they don’t have a device.  Then they ask me where they can get a Windows Phone.  The easiest answer is to go to your local wireless carrier and purchase a Windows Phone (likely with a data plan) from them.  That isn’t always optimal (hey, I get it – if you’re locked into a plan it’s a tough sell to get another one with your carrier of choice).  The second choice is to purchase a Windows Phone from a distributor like zones.com, where you can purchase a device that is not attached to a data plan, but those phones are typically not subsidized by the distributor or the device manufacturer.

    Now, for those of you that publish 2 or more new, quality apps for Windows Phone, we will actually give you a Windows Phone to keep through the Mango App Challenge.  Feel free to re-read that.  Your eyes are not deceiving you.  There are terms and conditions, of course, but the gist of the offer is that if you create 2 new apps (i.e.: they don’t already exist in the Marketplace) that meet a certain quality bar and you publish them under a Canadian Marketplace account before December 15th, we’ll be delivering you a shiny new Windows Phone with the Windows Phone 7.5 OS (formerly codenamed “Mango”) already installed on it.  It’s that simple.  We’re so confident in your ability to bring some amazing apps to the Marketplace that we have 300 devices total for this offer to give out to developers.

    So, are you interested?  I thought you might be.  For those of you that know Windows Phone development already, chances are you’ve already fired up Visual Studio 2010 and have great ideas ready to be converted into code.  For those of you that have not built apps for Windows Phone, we have you covered as well.  There are tonnes of resources available to you to learn how to build apps for Windows Phone and the tooling is freely downloadable.  The only thing you need to to is pay the CAD $99 fee to register as a developer for Windows Phone (this registration is required to publish apps to the Windows Phone Marketplace).  Below are some resources to get you started (and they are great for new and seasoned developers alike!).

    How to Get Started Building Apps for Windows Phone and Enter the Mango App Challenge

    • Visit the Microsoft Canada Windows Phone Developer Resource Page:  This is a one-stop link shop for pretty much everything you need to start building for Windows Phone (in fact, the links below this one are included in this Resource page)
    • Download the free developer tools
    • Learn how to develop for Windows Phone with free training like this, this and this
    • Register as a Canadian-based publisher on the App Hub (this will allow you to publish apps to the Marketplace)
    • Build and test your 2 apps.  Then submit your apps for certification in the Marketplace.  When it passes certification, publish your apps.
    • Submit your 2 published apps to the Mango App Challenge before December 15, 2011.
    • If you meet the requirements of the Mango App Challenge and there are still phones available from this offer, then you will be notified that you have scored yourself a free Windows Phone!

    Good luck and happy coding!

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Techdays 2011: Windows Client and Windows Phone Track Unleashed

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    By now, you may have seen that TechDays 2011 is now open for registration.  TechDays is Microsoft Canada’s premier, in-person training event that is reaching 3 cities (Toronto – October 25-26, 2011, Vancouver – November 15-16, 2011 and Montreal – November 29-30, 2011) with 2 full days of training in 8 different tracks (in alphabetical order:  Cloud Computing and Online Services; Communication and Collaboration; Developer Tools, Frameworks and Languages; Development Practices and Architecture; Security, Identity and Management; SQL Server and Data Platform; Virtualization; Windows Client and Windows Phone).

    As Track Owner of the Windows Client and Windows Phone track at TechDays 2011, I am honoured and excited to introduce the many sessions that you will see talking about Windows Phone and Windows Client.  It’s a jam-packed track that will appeal to both developers and IT Pro’s alike, with lots of content that will both enable to use these technologies today and to inspire you to build the next great thing tomorrow.

    To give you some background as to why the sessions you see below are found in the Windows Client and Windows Phone track, I want to explain the rationale behind the decision process.  First, I wanted to provide Client and Phone content that would be beneficial to everyone using or thinking of using our platform technologies, regardless of whether your job entailed development, management or operations in IT.  Second, I wanted to give sessions that attendees would find both exciting and relevant to their day-to-day jobs.  Finally, I wanted these sessions to inspire you.  IT is only a tool, a means to an end.  It’s your creativity and passion that make software wildly successful.  It is my hope that through these sessions you will see and hear something that will kindle an amazing idea that will change the world!

    Below is a video that introduces the Windows Client and Windows Phone track:

     

    So on with the sessions in the Windows Client and Windows Phone Track:

    WIN301:  Windows Phone 7.5: An Overview and Architecture Deep Dive

    Windows Phone is a different kind of phone, architected to put the focus on end users while enabling developers to build compelling, connected experiences that enhance the phone. Peer under the covers to see how the architecture evolved to deliver powerful functionality for users and developers: enabling rapid seamless transitions between applications; delivering continuous user experiences in the background; combined Silverlight/XNA in a unified UI; sharing data between phone and applications; sensor fusion for integration of the physical and virtual worlds; and many more. Along the way, we will demonstrate how Microsoft brought together these features to deliver experiences that are responsive and battery efficient.

    WIN302:  Adding the Awesomesauce Flavour with Internet Explorer 9 Pinned Sites

    By now, you've heard about pinned sites in Internet Explorer 9. And, you've probably even used them yourself. But, did you know that this feature can help increase site visits and engagements? In this session, you'll hear stories of Pinned Site implementations by some of the most popular websites on the web today. You'll also discover how to support pinned sites with a few lines of markup. Finally, you'll learn best practices that will help you deliver an awesome experience to your visitors.

    WIN303:  Windows Intune: PC Management with Cloud Services and Windows 7

    Windows Intune, Microsoft's cloud-based offering for PC management, simplifies and helps businesses manage and help secure PCs using Windows cloud services and Windows 7. As an integrated Microsoft offering, Windows Intune brings together cloud services for PC management and protection with a Windows upgrade subscription – all without the need to set up enterprise deployment infrastructure. In this session, see how simple it is to get started with Windows Intune to deliver the essentials of management – updates, malware protection, and asset inventory – to unmanaged PCs. Learn how Microsoft cloud services help deliver the reliability and security you expect for your business.

    WIN304:  Building Windows Phone 7 Applications with the Windows Azure Platform

    In this session you will learn how to build Windows Phone 7 applications that are backed by scalable cloud components hosted in Windows Azure. This demo-focused session will cover the end-to-end experience and address how to tackle issues such as authentication, storage, and notification using the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows Phone 7.
    WIN305:  Application Design for Windows Phone In the past year, we’ve worked with hundreds of developers and designers interpreting the "Metro" design system for their own purposes. We’ve seen great interpretations, and others that aren’t so great. In this session, we’ll share with you the foundations of great Metro application design for Windows Phone, and how to use them to build outstanding applications that will stand out and get noticed… for good reasons.  We will also be providing some general best practices for building great mobile experiences.
    WIN312:  Digging into an HTML5 Line of Business Starter Kit (Local Content Submitted for Toronto)

    No doubt you’ve heard a lot about HTML5 as a web developer. Now it’s time to look at what that means. In this session we’ll take a look at the construction of an HTML5 line-of-business application. It will show you what you need to consider targeting the desktop, phone and tableting web experiences while taking advantage of the tools that HTML5 delivers to you.

    WIN371:  Complete Windows 7 Deployment Using Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2012 (MDT 2012)

    If you are still spending money on your desktop deployment solutions, be prepared to be impressed! The Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2012 (MDT 2012) can do it all. And it’s free. In this session Rhonda will show you how to set up a MDT server, create a complete image including Office 2010 and deploy that image using the new Deployment Wizard.  But wait that’s not all MDT 2012 can also migrate your XP machines to Windows 7 while maintaining users data and settings as well. See it all in this demo driven session.

    WIN372:  Windows Deployment Service (WDS) vs Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2012 (MDT) Choose The Right Tool Stop wasting money on your deployment tools, you can do it all with Microsoft’s free tools. But which one does what you need? Rhonda will show you the differences between WDS and MDT so you can spend your time wisely setting up the right tool from the beginning. WDS can create and deploy images but only a certain type of image. MDT can create, manage and deploy your images. While they sound similar in functionality the feature set could not be more different. This session will show you all the features of WDS and compare those to all the features of MDT. Learn which tool can link your branch deployment shares (DS) to the Corporate DS allowing branch office machines to be deployed locally. Find out also how to deploy an entire image from a USB Flash Drive that requires no network connection to the DS. And last but not least discover how to set up automatic imaging and re-imaging for troubleshooting both desktop and server OSs.
    WIN373:  Consumerization of IT: Windows Devices in the Workplace Apps have sparked a lot of market interest and buzz – for businesses. Windows Phone also brings together a captivating experience for work and play. In this session we’ll take a deep dive into key business scenarios that Windows Phone enables today.  Come to this session to learn why Microsoft has a competitive advantage over other OS platforms.  Learn how Windows Phone and Microsoft collaboration solutions like Exchange, SharePoint & Lync offer the best integration for the enterprise and offer the best connectivity experience for end users.

    If you are interested in attending, don’t delay in registering as the conference is filling up with registrations right now.  We are also providing early bird pricing for the conference (CAD $399.99 instead of the regular fee of $799.99, which is a 50% discount).  For Toronto, this early bird pricing ends on October 4, 2011 (Vancouver early bird pricing ends October 25, 2011 and Montreal early bird pricing ends November 8, 2011), so time is running short on getting a great discount on premier training and networking!

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Dude, Where’s My Mango Update?

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    Photo Credit:  Mohammed Aly By now, many of you have probably seen the news that carriers around the world will start pushing updates very soon and through the next couple of months.  It’s exciting because many that have seen and used the Mango update for Windows Phone in its beta format have seen it to be a very usable, interesting and viable platform that rivals any of the mobile platforms out there today.

    Like you, I’m excited as well.  I have been running the beta (build 7712) version of Mango on my own phone since around late July and it’s made me much more productive on the go.

    So, with all that said, when can you expect the Mango update to be released by the 3 major carriers supporting Windows Phone in Canada?  The answer is “soon”.  I can’t tell you the exact date because that is something that is managed not only by Microsoft but also by our carrier partners, so saying a date right now on this blog would make a commitment not only of Microsoft but of our carrier partners as well.  I can tell you Canadian users waiting for Mango will get it in the publicized timeframe that Eric Hautala statedin his post (which I linked to above), however.

    What can you expect in your Mango update?  Well, here’s a few of the features that I love:

    • Multi-tasking: All apps (original Windows Phone 7 apps or Mango apps) will support multi-tasking.  The awesome thing I’ve noticed is that this addition doesn’t affect the battery in a significant way from what I’ve seen.
    • Threaded Conversations:  Start a conversation on SMS, switch to Facebook and then to Messenger in one single conversation thread.  No need to start a new thread in separate apps; the phone is smart enough to manage the thread regardless of the service!
    • Enhanced Live Tiles: The Push Notification service for Windows Phone is top notch and it became even richer and more meaningful with Mango – Live Tiles continue to push useful app info to your tile, but also you can now use the back of the tile (which flips on the start screen) to provide even more info.
    • Threaded Conversations in Outlook: You know that awesome feature in your desktop client for Outlook 2010 that allows you to manage an email conversation in a thread so you don’t have to search your inbox for historical responses?  Yeah, that’s supported in Mango.  Bazinga!
    • Internet Explorer 9: The browser on Mango has been rev’ed to the newest production browser from Microsoft available on the desktop, namely IE9.  It’s essentially the same rendering engine as well as the GPU acceleration capabilities that IE9 has on the desktop to make graphics super-fast.  Oh yeah, and it supports HTML5.  Boom.
    • Full Sync Support for Office 365, SharePoint and SkyDrive: Ok, so sync support with SkyDrive and SharePoint existed in the initial WP7 release, but now we also support Office 365.  Great for small and medium sized business support.  To the Cloud
    • Native integration for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn:  You’re a social butterfly, eh?  Well, in addition to Facebook integration found in the initial release of Windows Phone 7, we have also now added Twitter and LinkedIn in the same manner.  Boom again.

    So where can I check in on my update and scheduling by my carrier?  As with previous updates, Microsoft will hold the latest information on the Where’s My Update page on the Windows Phone portal.  Right now (as of the publication time and date of this post), there’s 3 updates listed, all showing “Delivering Update” status.  As an FYI, none of these updates are Mango (7008 was the initial test update from January, 7390 was the NoDo update in March which introduced copy and past among other things and 7392 was a security update  from April that fixed a certificate issue).

    So stay tuned and rest assured that the Canadian carriers supporting Windows Phone will be pushing out your update in a timely fashion!

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Why Can’t We Be Friends? Art and Function in Windows Phone Apps.

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    Even ten years ago, “experience” was not really something that was given much thought in building software.  More often than not the primary goal of a piece of software was simply to display results, or data.  How the data or results were displayed was more often a function of technical specifications than it was a matter of user-centric design.  That is to say, while the user was often a part of the process of creating specifications for a software solution, the end result was often not differentiated on being tailored to the user, but rather the data.  It can be argued that if you polled software publishers ten to fifteen years ago on what user-centric design was, the answer would largely be centered around presenting as much data to a user on a single screen as possible (“less clicks is more productivity”).  The end result was focused on process rather than personalization and taking into account how the user works (which is not the same as process).

    That line of thinking was certainly acceptable in the past, but things are much different today.  As web platforms became richer and aesthetic design became more important to the digital consumer experience, users frankly demanded more of the software they used.  Gone now are the days where "battleship grey” is acceptable.  Software that is successful in today’s market often makes effective use of user-centric principles including the determination of user personas, natural flow of information, content taxonomies, effective and intelligent use of colour, wireframing and storyboards among other things.  Making the right experiential decisions in the software design stage has become just as important as making the effort to test the code prior to flipping the switch on a production instance.  If that sounds bizarre, think of it this way:  what use is the best, most robust software solution if your users hate the way it works for them?  If the user doesn’t buy into it, the software solution has ultimately failed in its objective.

    The phone as a platform is no different, especially in mobile platforms that are truly modern and provide great amounts of feature capabilities out of the box (GPS, modern browser, multitasking, notification engines, etc.).  The base experience that the platform provides enables software developers to create an even richer, more user-centric experience with the apps that they build on top of their chosen mobile platform.  With Windows Phone, Microsoft has built a unique base experience (in Metro) that software publishers can leverage to create applications that truly raise the expectations bar for users and the apps they install on their Windows Phone device.  The rest of this post focuses on the things that you as a developer/designer can do to create a truly amazing and user-centric experience within your Windows Phone apps.

    Fresh and Simple

    The Metro Design Language used in Windows Phone was inspired by everyday signs that are universally recognized regardless of cultural, educational or personal background.Windows Phone represents simplicity in design.  When describing the principles of modern Windows Phone design, you may have seen phrases like “fierce reduction of unnecessary elements”, “fast and responsive”, “focus on primary tasks” and “content, not chrome”.  All of these phrases revolve around the idea of making it easy for users to find the information they need. 

    When wireframing your app, think of the following things:

    • Prioritize: Top level screens should not be cluttered; make use of secondary (or “deep”) screens to provide detailed information.  Think of it like this – top level screens should be the 30,000’ view while deeper screens provide the elemental details.  Ultimately, top level screens should provide actionable data to the user, but if the user wants more information they can get it from deeper screens.
    • User Orientation:  Data should be order logically.  If you are thinking of putting two or more very different data groups on a single screen, you likely should be separating those groups into separate screens.
    • The App Bar: The only buttons that should appear on any screen are buttons that are considered primary to the screen’s action.  If you have put a button on a screen that is likely not expected to be used often or is not pivotal to the functionality of the page, you should instead transfer that button to the app bar.
    • Metro before Brand: Apply the Metro design to the page before you inject any branding on a page.  This may seem counter-intuitive, but it is in fact the most effective way to build a Windows Phone app. If you focus on the branding first, it is sometimes difficult to design the page to be consistent with the look and feel of the phone platform.

    App Navigation

    Hub and Spoke is a fundamental navigation principle for Windows PhoneNavigation in your Windows Phone app should respect the flow of the Windows Phone platform.  Always use the hardware back button for going to the previous screen and never create a navigation structure that breaks the back button stack.  Simply put, this will cause the app to fail certification.  It’s also the most common reason why apps fail the certification process in the first place.

    Below are some of the more important considerations around Windows Phone app navigation:

    • Hub & Spoke Model: Design the page flow of your app to resemble a hub and spoke. Focus on creating one major page and section off features of the app on separate pages from that main page.
    • Predictability: If you design your app to match the flow and spirit of the Windows Phone platform, your app will be much more intuitive and therefore predictable to the user.  Predictability does not equate to being dull or boring.  It means the user will actually enjoy your app more as he/she will understand what comes next.  The less the user has to think about how to get to a piece of information when using your app the more fun it will be.
    • Integrated Experiences: If your app makes heavy use of functionality that is found in the foundational experiences (aka:  hubs) on Windows Phone (like Music & Videos, Pictures, People, etc.), then you should integrate your app into those services rather than building your own. Not only does it save you the effort of implementing your own code around those features, it actually makes your app look and feel much more slick and integrated with the phone experience overall.

    Creating a User Journey

    It’s one thing to think you have a killer app idea.  It’s an entirely other thing whether that idea translates into a popular app.  Your intent as an app developer or designer is to create an experience that is lasting and meaningful.  Actually, that is the goal of not only mobile app creators but of any app creator in general. Aside from solutions that are considered “one-offs” or temporary solutions, what really drives us all is to create apps that frankly everyone wants.  Your ultimate goal for success may differ from someone else (e.g.:  “I want to become rich from the revenue from my app” vs. “I want to be popular because everyone downloads my app” vs. “I want to make a positive impact on someone’s life because they use my app”), but the fundamental desire is the same:  “I want people to download and use my app”.

    So when you are thinking of your app, there are three major questions you need to ask yourself before you hit Visual Studio and Blend:

    • Will this app be useful to my users?
    • Will this app be usable by my users?
    • Will this app be desirable to my users?

    If the answer to any of those questions is no and your intent is to make your app as popular and relevant as possible, then you probably need to think a little longer on the problem space your app is trying to solve for.

    Keep in mind this general mobile app statistic:  The average mobile application is opened by a user once.  Only around 1% of all mobile apps are used regularly long term.

    So how do you entice users to first download your app, then open your app more than once?  There is no one right answer, of course, but there are three guiding principles that greatly enhance your chances of getting to that goal:

    • Attract
      • Make the user want to download your app by providing a strong business case.  Take great care in authouring your app’s description in the Marketplace and make sure you clearly identify the value propositions for users to want to download your app.
      • Cocktail Flow is a great example of a Windows Phone app that attracts users.Embrace Metro in your App:  The best apps, regardless of the mobile platform you target, are almost always the ones that adopt the look, feel and spirit of the mobile platform it lives on.  For Windows Phone, this means using Metro in your apps.
      • Be thoughtful when you Insert your Branding:  The branding of your app is clearly important, but make sure that it flows with the look and feel of Windows Phone. If the branding is jarring or feels out of place, users will not be as likely to re-use your app.
    • Delight
      • Invite users to explore your app.  If you make it fun for users to navigate through your app and find things that they will say “Hey, that’s cool!” to, then you’ve likely won over your user right then and there. Curbside Cuisine delights users by allowing them to discover interesting app functionality, almost by accident.
      • Keep the app fresh by providing updates.  If an app goes stale, they are less likely to open it again.  Try to have a deliberate schedule for functionality updates.  Provide value-add features in as many updates as possible (i.e.:  not just bug fixes).
    • Retain
      • Let your app tell a story.  This can be done through an interesting yet effective navigation structure, great visual experience, providing some delight in surprise and yet be predictable enough that the app is intuitive.
      • Amazon's Windows Phone app makes use of Metro but also retains users by allowing them to extend their reading experience across devices by allowing the user to start reading where he/she left off on a different device.Evolution is not just a term coined by Darwin. Apps can (and should!) evolve over time.  This can include ways for users to retain and build collections of information that can be referred back to, functionality within the app that evolves with changing trends, fresh information being provided by the app whenever possible and many other ways.
  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Like HTML5? Like Phone Apps? Then you’ll LOVE Mango because…

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    A few weeks ago, I wrote a post referencing how you as a developer don’t have to be torn between building mobile experiences in HTML5 or native phone apps.  In fact, with the upcoming Mango release for Windows Phone, the “better together” story is a strong one that allows you to take advantage of great HTML5 goodness while harnessing that advantages that the native platform provides (like push notifications and live tiles) to create a full, rich experience for users and a manageable one for developers.

    To that end, I was very excited to learn that Nitobi, a great Vancouver-based company with a strong history in building mobile development platforms, has announced the release a beta of its popular PhoneGap framework supporting Mango.  This is a really big deal, not only for Microsoft, but for you as a mobile developer.  PhoneGap is a framework that is already available on platforms such as iOS, Android and Blackberry that allows you to build apps using HTML5/CSS3, JavaScript and native phone resources to create amazing mobile experiences catered to the targeted phone platform.

    In a very high-level nutshell, PhoneGap allows developers to create application experiences by building code in HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript and wrapping it in a native phone platform app.  PhoneGap generally takes care of the “plumbing” for the web code to communicate with the actual app it is wrapped around.  This allows you as a developer to leverage your web skills in creating the app’s content and then take advantage of the great, native features that the phone platform itself provides.  It is, as I like to call it, a win-win.

    There are literally thousands of apps built leveraging PhoneGap across all of the phone platforms available today.  This presents a great opportunity for developers with existing PhoneGap apps to port their solutions to Windows Phone Mango.  With IE9 as the browser on Mango, the ability to leverage HTML5 and CSS3 capabilities on the phone while merging it with the great native features of Mango brings a new and fresh look for your apps that can reach net new users.

    If you’re new to PhoneGap but know HTML5 or web development in general, then chances are it’s a great place to start if you’re interested in building apps for Mango as you can leverage those web skills and then learn how to code in some of the great app offerings that Mango provides.

    Oh, and if you know nothing about building Mango apps but you want to know how to start (or know how to code for Windows Phone 7 but want a primer on Mango), the Mango Jumpstart training course is now available on demand!  I blogged about the Mango Jumpstart training course a couple of weeks ago.  It was a two-day, deep-dive, online training course that was delivered live for free.  We have recorded each of the 14 sessions in this two-day course and they are now available for you to watch whenever you want.

    The sessions available in this course are as follows:

    1. Mango Jump Start (01): Building Windows Phone Apps with Visual Studio 2010
    2. Mango Jump Start (02): Silverlight on Windows Phone—Introduction
    3. Mango Jump Start (03): Silverlight on Windows Phone—Advanced
    4. Mango Jump Start (04): Using Expression to Build Windows Phone Interfaces
    5. Mango Jump Start (05): Windows Phone Fast Application Switching
    6. Mango Jump Start (06): Windows Phone Multi-tasking & Background Tasks
    7. Mango Jump Start (07): Using Windows Phone Resources (Bing Maps, Camera, etc.)
    8. Mango Jump Start (08a): Application Data Storage on Windows Phone | Part 1
    9. Mango Jump Start (08b): Application Data Storage on Windows Phone | Part 2
    10. Mango Jump Start (09): Using Networks with Windows Phone
    11. Mango Jump Start (10): Tiles & Notifications on Windows Phone
    12. Mango Jump Start (11a): XNA for Windows Phone | Part 1
    13. Mango Jump Start (11b): XNA for Windows Phone | Part 2
    14. Mango Jump Start (12): Selling a Windows Phone Application

    So, what do you need to do now?  Here’s a little list that is worth checking out:

    • Download the Windows Phone Mango RC tools.  It’s the first thing you’ll need to start developing apps for Mango.
    • If you’re new to Windows Phone development or looking for training, check out the Mango Jumpstart Training course links above.
    • Interested in PhoneGap for MangoDownload it here. 
    • Bookmark our Windows Phone Development resources page.  It contains a great list of resources on Mango that you’ll want to have handy.  We’ll be keeping the content fresh so check back on occasion to see what’s new.
    • Start coding apps and games for Mango!

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Mobile Devs: Why Windows Phone Matters to You

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    Everyone knows how competitive the mobile space is.  There are a wide range of platforms available for you as a developer to adopt and build your mobile app masterpiece, each with their pros and cons.  So Microsoft introduces a new mobile platform (Windows Phone 7 and now the upcoming Mango update) which basically is a reset of the Microsoft mobile strategy and therefore started from scratch.  In the many conversations I’ve had with mobile developers about why they should care about Windows Phone now and in the future, the most common questions I would answer revolved around the fact that Windows Phone was essentially net-new and therefore at a disadvantage from its competitor platforms.

    Those types of questions are certainly fair and I’m sure many of you reading this post are even asking yourself the same questions.  Hopefully by the end of this post, you’ll have a better understanding of Microsoft’s mobile strategy, why we are taking a long term vision approach to our platform’s success, how you as a mobile developer can take advantage of the fact that Windows Phone is for all intents and purposes “new” again and finally provide you with some resources to help you porting your apps from other platforms onto the Windows Phone platform.

    Microsoft’s Mobile Strategy

    Believe it or not, Microsoft has been in the mobile game for around 10 years.  We started off with the Windows CE operating system and grew it from there.  It was primarily seen as a business platform (strengths being email and calendaring) and Microsoft continued to evolve the platform along those lines.  As smartphones became more consumer focused in the past 4 years, the popularity of the Windows Mobile (the old branding for Microsoft’s smartphone platform) waned.  This decline created an opportunity for Microsoft to virtually set a completely new course and build a whole new mobile experience that focused on user experience.  The result is what you see today:  Windows Phone 7.

    One of the key decisions that was made around this clean slate approach was how we work with partners in the new Windows Phone world.  It’s a little known fact that Microsoft makes very little money from customers in direct channels; virtually all of the revenue Microsoft makes is through our partners.  Clearly our partners, from OEM manufacturers to mobile carriers to app/game developers, were going to be front and center in our strategy.  We have also learned very valuable lessons from our previous mobile platforms, specifically around what works and what doesn’t.  At a very high level, this is what the Windows Phone team decided about going to market with partners:

    • Developers are key partners in this journey:  The platform easy to build for.  The tooling allows you as a developer to build great apps without worrying about a lot of the underlying OS “gunk”.  You can literally build a functional, usable app in minutes.  Also, developers are guaranteed that a minimum bar of experience will be guaranteed regardless of which handset the user has, so you can focus on your functionality rather than the quirks of any specific device.
    • Consumers prefer choice:  We realize that everyone has preferences.  We gave our OEM Manufacturers the freedom to build smartphone hardware that they feel will be popular with customers, while at the same time maintaining a level of experience that will delight users.  In essence, we give OEM partners the ability to differentiate the experience with different hardware formats (such as a physical keyboard or lack of a physical keyboard).  We also provide minimum standards for OEMs to adhere to in order to let them put the Windows Phone OS on their devices.  Aspects such as RAM, storage, camera pixel size and others all have minimum quality bars that must be reached.  Finally, every single device has a screen size of 800 by 480 pixels, guaranteeing developers to have a consistent screen size across devices.
    • We work with Mobile Carriers, not for them:  In past versions of Windows Phone, we built the OS, gave it to OEM partners without any material certifications on how the devices would perform and then both OEMs and the carriers would put whatever software they decided would be useful to the user.  In theory, the extra software seems like a value add type of scenario but in reality it wasn’t tested thoroughly enough and the experience for the user was wildly different from carrier to carrier and device to device.  In our new model, we do not allow anyone but the user to install apps on the phone (outside of the vanilla apps that are included on the OS, such as the browser and the Marketplace).  Every single app that a user will install onto their phone must come from our central Marketplace – there is no preloaded third party apps on the phone.  As a developer, this is important to you as you can be guaranteed that no apps that have not been properly tested will exist on a user’s phone that could potentially affect the performance of your app or game.

    What about Nokia?  Nokia is a very strategic partner with Microsoft.  You’ve probably seen the media coverage and official press releases from Nokia and Microsoft stating that Nokia will be ceasing to install their Symbian OS on their smartphones going forward, instead adopting Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS for their smart devices from now on.  This is a key relationship for both Microsoft and Nokia and is significant in a number of ways:

    • Nokia has an incredibly large install base around the world, particularly in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.  At Microsoft, we feel that the high quality of Nokia’s hardware combined with the unique and enjoyable experience of the Windows Phone OS will be a winning combination that will translate into large adoption of the Windows Phone platform.
    • The relationship extends beyond just phones.  It is also a deeper integration of Nokia and Microsoft technologies involving Nokia’s mapping assets and Bing, increased partnerships around Nokia’s billing infrastructure and agreements with carriers around the world (especially where credit card use is low) thereby making the barrier to entry for Windows Phone less, integration of content from Nokia’s marketplace with Microsoft’s Marketplace for a more compelling user experience, and even more.
    • Sharing of knowledge and best practices between both companies thereby creating a more compelling offering to consumers and businesses that choose Windows Phone and other Microsoft technologies.

    Making it easy for developers building apps on Windows Phone

    As I had stated above, one of the main goals and a key factor to the success of Windows Phone is to make it as easy as possible to allow you as a developer to build apps and games for the platform and to monetize them.  This means making the tools easily accessible (read:  free) and getting up to speed quickly.  It also means making it easy to publish your apps and games on our Marketplace yet making sure that quality is maintained on the apps. Finally, it means making sure that you have the tools and opportunity to both understand how your app is trending in popularity and making it fair so that the best apps get featured.

    Making the tools easily accessible and getting up to speed quickly

    This is simple.  Literally, everything you need to start building apps is on our App Hub.  This includes the tools download page, tutorials, partner resources, and community support.

    If you register as a developer (roughly $99), you get more than just the ability to publish apps and games to the Marketplace.  You also have the ability to publish XBOX Live Indie games on the XBOX Live Marketplace (a great opportunity to cross-pollinate your game if you’re so inclined).  We also provide you with a large number of tools to help you analyze the performance of your apps and games in the marketplace.  We also provide extra tooling for you for free to help protect your code assets from reverse engineering and the like as well.

    Finally, even though the tooling is free and everything you need to build apps and games is included in that tooling, you may be interested in our paid tools as well (namely Visual Studio Professional and above, and Expression Studio Ultimate).  These paid tools provide a great deal of extra value to you if you are interested in native source code control right out of Visual Studio, enhanced testing tools (including load testing and the like), SketchFlow (rapid wireframing and prototyping) and many other features that may make your job a whole lot easier.

    Make it easy to publish apps and games

    As long as you are a registered developer on the App Hub, you can publish Windows Phone apps and games.  To make it as easy as possible to get you from an app/game idea to published in Marketplace, there’s more than just great tooling that you need to make it happen.  First off, all of our certification guidelines are publicly available (all apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace are certified by Microsoft before they are published).  If you follow those certification guidelines, you are golden.  However, if you do fail certification for whatever reason, we provide you with a detailed report outlining what failed and what certification guideline was violated in the process.  The report will also give you a failure consistency statistic (for example “Failed 8/10 times” or “Failed 10/10 times”) so you know how reproducible the error is.  (By the way, in case you’re wondering, app and game testing goes through both automated/machine testing and human testing.)

    Determining how successful your masterpiece is in the Marketplace

    Once you’re published (congrats!), you’ll be able to keep tabs on how well your app/game is performing in the Marketplace.  We provide reporting analytics for you to determine downloads, usage statistics and even app failure reports among other things.  That way you can take action based on the information and make informed decisions on how to promote your app next.

    Speaking of promotion, we try to be as fair as possible with the featured spots on our Marketplace.  If you have an app or game that  is great and popular, we do give consideration to your app/game in one of the featured spots.  While nothing is guaranteed, I know this is a question that gets asked a lot and the answer is if you build something awesome that lots of users like (by downloading and actually using the app), there is a better chance of getting some Marketplace recognition for your work.

    But I don’t build apps for Windows Phone today – in fact I have apps on competitor’s platforms.  How do I start?

    I’m glad you asked.  We recognize that our competitors make great mobile platforms that allow developers to make awesome apps and games.  We also believe that your apps and games on those platforms would look even more awesome on our Windows Phone platform!  To that end we published some content and guidance on how you can port your masterpieces from iOS and Android onto our platform – again, all for free!  While there is no one single bullet (or tool in this case) that will automatically translate iOS and Android code to .NET code for Windows Phone, the resources below provide some great guidance on how to get from A to Windows Phone more quickly.

    Calling all iOS Developers!

    If you build apps for the iPhone/iPod, we have some great information for you on how to port your app to Windows Phone.  Below is a list of these resources:

    • Main Windows Phone Interoperability Bridges Site: This site is the main portal to help you move your app from iOS to WP7. It includes case studies, resources and whitepapers for you to help you get your app/game to Windows Phone.
    • iOS API to WP7 API Mapping Directory:  This directory provides a mapping of iOS 4.2 API’s to the WP7 mappings.  This is really useful especially if you are new to .NET.
    • Windows Phone 7 Guide for iOS Developers:  If you have been developing iPhone applications and are interested in building your applications for Windows Phone 7, this whitepaper guide is for you.  The guide covers what you need to know to add Windows Phone 7 development to your skill set, while leveraging what you have already learned building iPhone applications.

    Calling all Android Developers!

    If you build apps for Android, we also have some great information for you on how to port your app to Windows Phone. Below is a list of these resources:

    • Main Windows Phone Interoperability Bridges Site: This site is the main portal to help you move your app from Android to WP7. It includes case studies, resources and whitepapers for you to help you get your app/game to Windows Phone.
    • Android API to WP7 API Mapping Directory: This directory provides a mapping of Android Gingerbread (v2.3) API’s to the WP7 mappings. This is really useful especially if you are new to .NET.
    • Windows Phone 7 Guide for Android Developers: If you have been developing Android applications and are interested in building your applications for Windows Phone 7, this whitepaper guide is for you. The guide covers what you need to know to add Windows Phone 7 development to your skill set, while leveraging what you have already learned building Android applications.

     

    There you have it.  Windows Phone represents another channel for you to increase your app’s or game’s popularity across multiple platforms.  You don’t need to abandon one platform in order to adopt another – this has been proven time and time again in technology.  Clearly, co-existence can be a winner.  So if you’re thinking of trying out Windows Phone as your next platform to adopt, hopefully the resources in this post can get you more than started. 

    Finally, if you are porting your app from another platform onto Windows Phone, let me know – give me a shout on Twitter!

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Premiere Training on Mango – And it’s free!

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    If you find you aren’t busy on Tuesday, August 23 and Wednesday, August 24, you may be interested in attending free an online training event that will bring you to speed on how to build Mango apps. If you’re new to building apps on the Windows Phone 7 platform or a veteran looking to understand the new and exciting features of Mango you can add to your app, this training event will be worth your while.

    The event, Building Applications for Windows Phone Mango Jump Start, is literally a premier deep dive training event that is yours for the taking.  It’s being run by two of the most renowned Windows Phone 7 developers in the world, Rob Miles and Andy Wigley.  You may know them from the previous course they ran, the 19-Part Windows Phone 7 Jumpstart Training course which is available here on-demand for free.  This new course, however, is more than just a rehash and update of the content found in that first jumpstart.  This event will provide you with net-new material that will teach you how to build start of the art Windows Phone applications and games using the new features found in Windows Phone 7 Codename Mango.  Sounds interesting?  Well, here are the details:

    Day One August 23, 2011 | 8am-4pm PDT | Live online training

    • Building Windows Phone Apps with Visual Studio 2010
    • Silverlight on Windows Phone – Introduction
    • Silverlight on Windows Phone – Advanced
    • Using Expression to Build Windows Phone Interfaces
    • Windows Phone Fast Application Switching
    • Windows Phone Multi-tasking & Background Tasks
    • Using Windows Phone Resources (Bing Maps, Camera, etc.)

    Day Two — August 24, 2011 | 8am-4pm PDT | Live online training

    • Application Data Storage on Windows Phone
    • Using Networks with Windows Phone
    • Windows Azure and Windows Phone
    • Notifications on Windows Phone
    • XNA for Windows Phone
    • Selling a Windows Phone Application

    Despite this new training being free, you do need to register to attend, so be aware and register here.  Also, if you aren’t able to attend the live broadcast, don’t worry because it will be recorded and available on-demand after the fact.  I will create a follow up post when the on-demand content is available.

    So why should I attend this online training (or watch the event on-demand)?

    Well, one of the things that I and my colleagues have heard over and over again is that Windows Phone is the easiest platform to build for.  I can attest from my conversations with the Windows Phone product teams and engineers that that this is not by accident – making the easiest platform to build amazing mobile experience on was a significant goal for the team.  What this means is that you can get up to speed really quickly on building awesome apps and games on the Windows Phone platform and training courses like this one will allow you to leverage the unique features of the platform that you may not have even known existed and implement them in your app or game very quickly.

    Enjoy the training!

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    On Phone Apps and Web Apps

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    Being a mobile developer over the past 4 years has been an interesting experience.  With the advent of modern smartphones with differentiate experiences, we found out that not only is there a viable market for great apps, but that market is booming and very competitive.  We have seen mobile apps that have literally changed the way we interact, live our lives and found ways to fill the lulls in our day with experiences that are both fun and addictive.  And along the way, we all seemed to figure out that finding a center of gravity for all the apps within a mobile platform was an effective way to make an app popular by consumers and monetize the efforts of the developer as a result.

    During that time, the web has evolved a great deal as well.  The debates over which plug-ins were best were fought and then along came HTML5 (or rather the promise of HTML5) that many believe will fundamentally change the way we see the web and how we interact with content on the internet.  Even though HTML5 is in its infancy (it’s not even a ratified set of standards from the W3C yet and likely won’t be for a while yet!), already we are seeing some very interesting examples of what HTML5 can bring.  Frankly, this is game changing stuff.

    As HTML5 standardization marches on, becoming more popular for web developers/designers and as more and more people start building native mobile apps, it seems that a line in the sand is forming between the pro-HTML5 and pro-App groups.  There is a polarity that is appearing between the two and we are starting to see a sentiment that the two camps are becoming mutually exclusive (adopt one or the other, but not both).

    There is a decent argument being made by both camps.  HTML5 enthusiasts are advocating that mobile experiences should turn into HTML5 websites that can be made to  look and feel exactly like mobile apps native to the smartphone platform in question.  They also advocate it as a way to centralize administration and maintenance of the experience (change once on the server and the new experience is delivered to anyone and everyone without the need to download an update).  The fact that HTML5 is being created as a set of standards is very compelling as it allows developers and designers the ability to design their web-based experience without having to deal with the vagaries found in each browser.  Given that most modern mobile platforms have a good HTML5 story around their browsers (either today or in future direction of their browsers), it’s a strong argument.  The other side of the coin is that the set of standards that are commonly referred to as HTML5 won’t be ratified until 2014 at the earliest.  There is also no guarantee that each of the major browsers will interpret the standard the same way which could negate the benefits of the “write once, display on any browser” vision of HTML5.

    The pro-native app enthusiasts, on the other hand are make a great point in that the development platforms for their apps are rich, well-documented, support rapid dev cycles and a centralized store where smartphone users can easily find, install and socialize the apps they like.  Apps that are native to the platform can take full advantage of the features that the platform vendor has exposed, leading to incredible innovation.  Finally, apps found in a marketplace have the advantage of marketing support that comes out of the box.  Data shows that being featured in a marketplace creates a huge spike in downloads and revenue that has the opportunity to be sustained over long periods of time.   The negatives for native apps include the need to share revenue with the marketplace the app resides in as well as the app being subject to the terms and conditions of that marketplace with the risk of being pulled with only short notice.

    So who is right?  Well, you could say both are.  They both have valid arguments and the positives for each are tangible while the negatives are equally relevant.  I would also say that combining the two (a native smartphone app leveraging HTML5) is equally right and should receive more consideration than it currently is getting.

    To make my case, let’s consider the Windows Phone 7 Codename Mango platform (I use Mango instead of the original WP7 platform as Mango introduces IE9, an HTML5-ready browser, while the original WP7 platform used a browser that was a hybrid of IE7 and IE8 which are not HTML5-ready).  For example, using the Qantas demo that was seen in Joe Belfiore’s keynote at MIX11, re-imagine the implementation of the app Qantas built as a native Mango app that utilizes a browser control within the app to deliver a rich, web-hosted experience via an HTML5 canvas.

    ie9mobileThe power of HTML5 allows you to create a truly immersive experience that is hosted purely within the browser.  If you are a registered WP7 developer on the App Hub and you have downloaded the Mango beta build you can check out its capabilities for HTML5 on a WP7 device (or you could just bring up the emulator that came with the Mango beta dev tools).  With Mango, you can leverage the power of IE9 and HTML5 to create amazing apps that can be skinned to fit the look and feel of the Mango platform (i.e.:  the metro design language).  You can then use this same experience, if you wanted to, on normal desktop browsers or even in other mobile browsers.

    qantasLikewise, if you hosted that web experience within a browser control, you could still leverage the amazing features of the Mango platform to create a truly immersive experience that you simply couldn’t by only using an HTML5 app in the mobile browser.  By using a native app to host the browser control, you could still leverage new features in Mango such as Agents and Alerts, double-sided tiles, fast app switch and even deep app linking.

    Even if you were looking to avoid revenue sharing for your paid app within the Marketplace (paid apps are split as a 70/30 with you retaining the 70% portion), you could make your app free in the Marketplace and implement your own in-app purchase mechanism within the HTML5 part of your app (assuming, of course, your app isn’t a Mango game, as the Marketplace certification guidelines prohibit any in-app purchase within WP7 games as of the publish date of this post).

    So I’ve made my case for hybrid native/HTML5 apps.  I suspect some of you may have different ideas around this, so please let me know what you think!

    -Paul

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Mango RTMs! Now what?

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    Last week, we announced that Windows Phone 7 Codenamed “Mango” RTM’ed (RTM = Release to Manufacturing).  This is great news for a number of reasons because Mango represents a very enticing update to Windows Phone 7 that in essence puts it at least on par with our competitors from a phone capability and experience perspective and even exceeds our competitors in a number of areas.

    Some of you may have put Mango on your phone already (if you weren’t aware you could do this, check this link out as it provides some details around this process – just be aware that you need to be registered as a developer on the App Hub before you get an invite to the Beta program).

    Below is a refresher of some of the great end user features that Mango introduces to Windows Phone 7:

    • Multitasking: Even though Windows Phone 7 was always a multitasking OS, we have opened up the capability for third party vendors (that’s you!) to leverage multitasking in their apps
    • Internet Explorer 9: Yup, the browser engine on our phone is basically the same browser engine that sits on your desktop (if you’re using IE9, of course!).  Bring on the HTML 5 goodness!
    • Conversation View:  Have conversations with friends that span multiple services in a single thread.  Start on Facebook, switch to text message and then to something else.  It’s all reflected in a single conversation thread.
    • Office 365 and deeper SkyDrive Integration: Share your documents and photos in the cloud with ease (and securely)
    • Contact Groups: Have a lot of contacts in your address book? You can now group them into buckets (for example, family, co-workers, fantasy football league, etc.) which makes it easier to contact them either as a group or individually
    • Improved Live Tiles: Get even richer notifications from the tiles on your home screen, including the use of agents which can give you timely information based on location, alarms, etc.
    • Deep Linking into Apps: You can now pin an app to your homescreen and have that tile send you to a specific area of your app (for example, a flight status tracker for a flight you’re taking later that day within an airline app).
    • Local Scout: Integrate search results for your app with Bing search.  A great example for this would be a movie app integrating local scout search for finding movie theatres near you and displaying when the next showing of a movie your thinking of seeing starts

    There’s a whole lot more that users will love and that you as a developer can leverage, but you get the idea.

    So what exactly does the Mango RTM mean?

    Basically, the build for Mango has gone gold and has been sent to OEM manufacturers  to test and prepare their phones with the build for general availability to the consumer.  We have also sent this build to our carrier partners around the world so they can certify the build and prepare their infrastructure for Mango so that their Windows Phone 7 customers can download the update when the carrier is ready.  We are working very hard with both our OEM and carrier partners to make sure that Mango is available to consumers quickly and so far everything is very much on schedule so I’m pretty confident that anyone that wants Mango on their phone will be able to get it in a very reasonable timeframe.

    For those of you wondering when Mango will officially launch, there is no one answer as we will be launching Mango via the carriers and each carrier will have its own timeline (and before you ask, I don’t have any info as to when that will be for Rogers, Telus and Bell Smile). The general target we are all looking at globally, however, is later in the 2011 calendar year.

    By the way, any phone that has Windows Phone 7 on it today will be upgradeable to the Mango update.  And the update is free.

    As a developer what can I do?

    If you have apps in our Marketplace today, you may want to take advantage of the new features that Mango introduces to make your apps more attractive to your users.  Mango will be delivered to phones around the world soon, so if you want to take advantage of the new Mango features in your app by the time Mango is available to the average consumer, implementing some new functionality in your apps today would be a good idea.

    If you don’t have an app/game in the Marketplace today or you intend to build another app that takes advantage of Mango in time for launch, then I would suggest start coding your app/game soon! 

    If you are completely new to Windows Phone 7 and want to start from scratch, there are some Windows Phone 7 Developer tutorials listed in a post by my Microsoft colleague in Lebanon that teaches you how to build apps and games on the non-Mango platform.  Please note that these tutorials are still relevant in the Mango world (they just don’t take advantage of the features new to Mango) and are a great place to start!

    If you’re a seasoned veteran in creating Windows Phone 7 apps, then the you may want to take a look at the amazing list of resources that Larry Lieberman, a Senior Product Manager on the Windows Phone teamdocumented to get you started on Mango.  You can check out his post but I’ve also reproduced it here in case you don’t want to leave this site:

    1. Official Windows Phone Developer documentation on the MSDN Library. This is where we publish all of our official documentation. Quite a bit of new content was added here concurrent with our release of the new SDK, including:
      1. What’s new in the Windows Phone SDK
      2. Code Samples for Windows Phone; includes 26 new samples just for Mango
      3. Our ‘How To’ index. This is where we link to all of the specific pages within the documentation that explicitly spell out ‘how to’ implement a specific type of developer scenario. Many of these actually map to and spell out the execution of the sample code in the code samples. Some of the most interesting How To documents for Mango features include:
        1. SL & XNA together: How to: Combine Silverlight and the XNA Framework in a Windows Phone Application
        2. Profiler: How to: Improve the Responsiveness of Your Application Using the Windows Phone Profiler
        3. Fast App Switching: How to: Preserve and Restore Application State
        4. Database: How to: Create a Basic Local Database Application for Windows Phone
        5. Sockets: How to: Create and Use a TCP Socket Client Application for Windows Phone
        6. Sockets: How to: Create and Use a UDP Socket Client Application for Windows Phone
        7. Camera: How to: Create a Base Camera Application for Windows Phone
        8. Camera: How to: Extend the Pictures Hub with App Connect for Windows Phone
        9. Audio: How to: Play Background Audio for Windows Phone
        10. Periodic Agent: How to: Implement Scheduled Tasks for Windows Phone
        11. Motion API: How to: Use the Combined Motion API for Windows Phone
        12. Search Extensibility: How to: Extend Search with App Connect for Windows Phone
        13. Tiles: How to: Create, Delete, and Update Tiles for Windows Phone
    2. Windows Phone Mango Training Course. Now updated for beta 2 of the SDK. The Windows Phone Mango Training course, (like our previous training course for the initial release of Windows Phone 7), provides you step by step guidance, with complete sample code, demonstrating how to leverage the new developer scenarios in Windows Phone Mango to create a variety of real world applications. For the new training course, we decided to have the various labs all revolve around a single, more useful application, a task manager we called ‘Tidy’. You can get a video introduction to the ‘Tidy’ application here on Channel 9.
    3. The Inside Windows Phone Show on Channel 9. This show is our home on Channel 9, where we’ll provide you video walkthroughs of our new developer features, on a periodic basis. So far, we’ve conducted a number on Mango functionality, including the following:
      1. Inside the Mango Camera APIs
      2. Search Extras in Mango
      3. Sockets in Mango
      4. Inside the Mango Documentation
    4. App Hub Game Developer Resources, updated for Mango. This page is where we centralize all of our Windows Phone game developer resources, and we’ve updated it for Mango. Here you’ll find the following items, (among others):
      1. What’s new for games in Windows Phone OS 7.1
      2. Game State Management
      3. Migration Guide: From the Game Class to Silverlight/XNA
      4. Model Viewer Demo

    Finally, if you’re building a Mango app or game right now – I’d love to talk to you!  Give me a shout via the comments area of this post, use our contact page, or send me a note on Twitter!

    -Paul

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Changes to the WP7 Marketplace

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    TD3aHello, everyone!  Before I dive into the specific content of my subject title, I’d like to (re)introduce myself to you.  I’m Paul Laberge and I’m a Developer Advisor with Microsoft Canada’s Developer and Platform group.  Those of you who have been following the Canadian Developer blog for a few years may recognize me from my posts a while back when I was covering Silverlight and other web and UI technologies from a Microsoft Partner angle.  Since then I’ve been lucky enough to immerse myself in a few other roles at Microsoft Canada (most recently helping some big Canadian brand customers build Windows Phone 7 apps), but now I’m in a new role again, working with the awesome Canadian evangelism team that you know and love.  It’s great to be officially working with the great folks on this team as I’ve enjoyed working with them in the past. 

    It’s also great to be blogging again – you’ll see me being active on our blogs going forward.  My focus will be on Windows Phone and our mobility strategy so if you have questions about our mobile platform feel free to contact me on Twitter or via Microsoft Canada’s community connection blogs.

    Alright, time to get to the good stuff!

    This past Monday (July 18, 2011), the App Hub was offline for the better part of the day for planned maintenance and upgrades.  These upgrades provide some significant new features and functionality that will benefit you as a Windows Phone 7 developer. This post summarizes some of the more pertinent info, but if you want the full, detailed story, you can check out the official Windows Phone Developer Blog post by Todd Brix here.

    What’s New in the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace

    • Geographic Changes
    We have introduced the Marketplace into 19 new countries/geographies from a consumer standpoint. 

    Impact: The reach and number of potential consumers of your apps and games will be much larger than it used to be.
    • Pricing Tiers
    The Marketplace has been updated to reflect currency rates that more accurately reflect the price of your app compared to the US dollar as of today as this has not been done since the Marketplace opened 9 months ago.

    Impact:  The cost of your non-free applications and games to your users in the geographies you support will be aligned to the US, making it more fair.
    • Enhanced In-App Ad Support
    By the end of 2011, the Microsoft Advertising pubCentre will be supported in 18 countries, including Canada.

    Impact: If you build ad-supported applications, your ability to monetize your apps may be increased depending on if your app is available in some of the new ad-supported countries.  For some interesting stats on the benefits of using the Microsoft Advertising pubCentre, see here and here.
    • Private App/Game Distribution
    One of the gaps in the Marketplace that developers have told me about in the past is the lack of private distribution of apps.  The typical usage scenario for this is for beta testing apps and to allow only specific users access to an app.  With this update, you can give up to 100 users that you select access to an app in the Marketplace for 90 days (this is our “beta testing” scenario answer).  For “private” applications that you do not want publicly available, we now give you the option of publishing your app privately.  The app will not be discoverable via search on the Marketplace and you can distribute your app to users by giving them a deep link that will send them to the app in the marketplace (this is our “Targeted Distribution” scenario).

    Impact:  If you are building apps that you want to test out with larger number of users without having to developer unlock their WP7 devices, the Beta Testing scenario will give you greater flexibility in doing this while maintaining control on who you invite to the beta.  If you build apps like Line of Business/Enterprise apps that you don’t want to have widely available in the public, the Targeted Distribution model is a great way to deliver the app to legitimate users.
    • Application Management
    I can’t count how many developers I have talked to that were frustrated with the fact that anytime they wanted to change the metadata of their apps/games, they needed to resubmit the app for certification, even though no material changes to the functionality of the app were made. That changes now – metadata changes to apps and games can be made directly in the App Hub without recertification of the app. 

    We also provide much better analytics for your apps and games via the App Hub dashboard and you can even download these metrics into Excel.

    The submission process has been streamlined as well to make it easier for you to submit your app.  Thanks to the feedback from developers such as you, the Marketplace team has incorporated a large number of your suggestions and have made the submission process much cleaner than it was in the past.

    Impact:  As an app or game publisher for Windows Phone 7, your ability to monitor the popularity and usefulness of your app to your users has increased, which allows you to make more informed decisions on how to improve your app in future releases as well as give you a better understanding of how well your app is doing in the Marketplace in general.

    With the introduction to the new Marketplace functionality on the App Hub, we have updated a number of documents that you may have seen there as well in the past.  The list below provides links to some of the more pertinent updated documentation that you may want to review:

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    The “Ignite Your Venture” Webcast Series

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    Ignite Your Venture - Register Today!

    Your Host, Angie Lim

    Do you have a great business idea but don’t know where to start?  Do you have questions about the process of creating a start-up business but never knew who to ask/  Just curious what the big deal is with the start-up side of technology??  We are proud to introduce a free, new webcast series called Ignite Your Venture that aims to help you understand the in’s and out’s of the start-up process and give you a forum to ask people with expertise in the start-up ecosystem.

    Hosted by Microsoft’s very own Angie Lim, Channel Audience Manager for the Microsoft Canada Partner Network  and featuring the experts at Intrepid Equity and others, the intent is to bring discuss topics that entrepreneurs often ask and to help provide insight into all things start-up. 

    The webcasts will run every Wednesday of April 2010 (see the list of webcasts below for details) and registration is free.  We look forward to seeing you on these webcasts!

     

    Webcast #1 – Wednesday, April 7th, 2010 from 2:00PM ET to 3:00PM ET:  Bring Your Ideas to Life with a Venture Capitalist

    Venture capital plays a key part in enabling entrepreneurs to help accelerate their businesses. At the same time, raising funds can be a laborious and intimidating task. In this session, you will gain insight into the capabilities and approaches that venture capitalists value the most. You will learn how to prepare a comprehensive growth plan, and how to approach and engage diverse sources of finance. You will hear a variety of views from key business leaders on how to best help you get the outcome you deserve – the funding you need and an ecosystem of support to help you make the most of it.

    Featured Presenters:

    • Angie Lim, Channel Audience Manager, Microsoft Canada Partner Network
    • Alkarim Jivraj, Founder, Intrepid Equity Finance
    • Ian Gilbert, Venture Partner, Intrepid Business Acceleration Fund LP

    Register for this Webcast Here

     

    Webcast #2 – Wednesday, April 14th, 2010 from 2:00PM ET to 3:00PM ET:  Finding the Right People to Make the Right Team with Randy Street

    In business, you are who you hire. Randy Street, co-author of "Who: The A Method for Hiring", a New York Times, Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek best seller, offers a ground-breaking solution to your #1 business problem - hiring mistakes. In this webinar you will discover a simple 4-step method for hiring the right people that has helped its practitioners to achieve a 90% success rate, gain insights from exclusive interviews with more than 20 billionaires, 60 CEOs, numerous investors, and other thought leaders on the subject of hiring, and also learn the secrets of success for over 300 CEOs who participated in a University of Chicago study.

    Featured Presenters:

    • Angie Lim, Channel Audience Manager, Microsoft Canada Partner Network
    • Randy Street, President, ghSmart
    • Alkarim Jivraj, Founder, Intrepid Equity Finance
    • Ian Gilbert, Venture Partner, Intrepid Business Acceleration Fund LP

    Register for this Webcast Here

     

    Webcast #3 – Wednesday, April 21st, 2010 from 2:00PM ET to 3:00PM ET:  Helping to Increase Profits with Focus on Channel Engagement & Helping to Accelerate Your Sales

    Channel selection, deployment and execution represent a strategic minefield for many companies. This session will focus attention on the critical components of an effective channel engagement strategy. You will learn approaches that help you make the most of every dollar you spend in accessing and engaging customers. You will gain insight into effective methods for assessing which channels to use, and how best to use them. You will hear views from experienced entrepreneurs and channel builders about the most effective ways to drive deal velocity and scale – helping to contribute to the accelerated growth of your business.

    Featured Presenters:

    • Angie Lim, Channel Audience Manager, Microsoft Canada Partner Network
    • Shane Davies, ISV Partner Manager, Microsoft Canada
    • Alkarim Jivraj, Founder, Intrepid Equity Finance
    • Ian Gilbert, Venture Partner, Intrepid Business Acceleration Fund LP

    Register for this Webcast Here

     

    Webcast #4 – Wednesday, April 28th, 2010 from 2:00PM ET to 3:00PM ET:  Business Lead Generation that Really Delivers

    Generating and effectively managing leads, especially when resources are scarce, can be a real business roadblock. In this session, you will learn how to establish a strategic lead generation and management process that accelerates performance and that utilizes resources effectively, particularly in an entrepreneurial environment. You will also discover how to measure the real effectiveness of your lead generation efforts – so that you can ensure every dollar you spend contributes to revenue creation.

    Featured Presenters:

    • Angie Lim, Channel Audience Manager, Microsoft Canada Partner Network
    • Cadman Chui, Marketing Executive and Entrepreneur
    • Alkarim Jivraj, Founder, Intrepid Equity Finance
    • Ian Gilbert, Venture Partner, Intrepid Business Acceleration Fund LP

    Register for this Webcast Here

     

    -Paul

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Oh yeah, it’s on: welcome to the party, Windows Phone 7 Series.

    • 2 Comments

     

    wp7[1]

     

    Today marks a sea change in Microsoft’s mobile device strategy and how we are going to market in the smartphone space.  This change is fundamental rather than incremental; we have completely re-written the book on how a Windows Phone looks, behaves and interacts with a user.  With the MIX10 opening keynote (you can watch the on-demand video here), we introduced the details on how designers and developers can create incredible and immersive solutions for Windows Phone 7 Series. 

    I don’t think I can stress how different this new offering is to not only our previous smartphone offerings, but also how different Windows Phone 7 Series is compared to the most popular smartphone competitors on the market today.  In making the user central to the experience, the Windows Phone 7 Series product team has created a product that is productive, focused and fun to use.

    Some of the things we have announced are:

    • A consistent experience across devices
      • All Windows Phone 7 Series devices will share a common screen resolution and hardware specifications
    • An intuitive, delightful and fresh User Interface
      • Adoption of the code name “Metro” user interface which was derived from the highly acclaimed UI in the Zune HD media player
      • Tiles:  launch points for phone functionality on the home screen that also share contextual and relevant information important to the user
    • 4-point capacitive multi-touch screens
    • An application programming model that uses Silverlight and XNA to deliver outstanding application and mobile gaming user experiences
    • Free tools to build Windows Phone 7 Series applications, including a very powerful phone emulator
    • Harmonized user experiences by leveraging Silverlight, Zune media playback, social networking and XBox Live integration
    • A push notification engine allowing simulated multitasking while removing the overhead of multitasking resources (such as memory, disk space, etc.)

    The fact that the application model leverages Silverlight and XNA is significant in that you can reuse your skillsets that you have acquired building regular Silverlight apps and XNA-enabled games.  This means that if you have built Silverlight applications or XNA games in the past, you’ll find the application creation process very familiar and will allow you to hit the ground running.

    WP7-2[1]

    Below are some helpful resource links that you can use to learn more about Windows Phone 7 Series application development and actually start building your apps right now:

     

    Happy Windows Phone 7 Series app building!

     

    -Paul

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Have you heard of Expression Web?

    • 0 Comments

    ExpressionWeb3[1] 

    Are you a website designer or developer either as a profession or even as a hobby?  If you are, then you may want to attend a free webcast coming up on Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 2PM ET (11AM PT) where we overview the features of Expression Web 3, Microsoft’s latest website design tool.

    To sign up for this free webcast, click here and use the following sign-up code:  10BC45

    This overview session will highlight some of the great features of Expression Web.  By the end of this session, you will:

    • Understand how Expression Web 3 fits into the Designer/Developer workflow for building web experiences
    • See a tour of some of the most important features of Expression Web 3, including
      • The Web Editor
      • CSS Management tools
      • Web Standards Management
      • Language Support (including native support for PHP!)
      • SuperPreview

     

    FrontPage[1] If you’ve never heard of Expression Web, then this webcast will likely surprise you as this a fully professional tool to help you build visually appealing, dynamic and standards-adhering websites.  And to answer your question, no, this is not FrontPage vNext.  FrontPage (thankfully!) is dead, never to come back. 

    To give you an example of what is possible with the tool, Morten Rand-Hendriksen has built some great sites built using Expression Web 3 which warrant highlighting:

     

     

     

     

    -Paul

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Wait, that’s a Windows Phone?!?

    • 0 Comments

    windowsphone7[1] logo[1] Yesterday was a pretty big day for Microsoft and one that I had been anticipating for a long while.  At the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, we finally unveiled to the world what our next generation of Windows Phones will look and act like – we introduced the Windows Phone 7 Series mobile operating system (watch the announcement here).  This introduction represents a truly radical change in Microsoft’s mobile strategy and already it has been garnering very positive feedback from the public (read Engadget’s review here; my initial search on the Twitter tag #wp7s is extremely positive as well).  You can expect smart devices featuring Windows Phone 7 Series in time for the 2010 Holiday season.

     

    Background

    Over the past months (and even years!), Microsoft’s mobile strategy has been questioned and blasted as being yesterday’s news, with very little to bring to the table in today’s highly competitive mobility market.  In complete honesty, I really can’t disagree with a lot of the criticism.  While I am enjoying Windows Mobile 6.5 on my Samsung Omnia Pro II (the device is the best I’ve had in all the smart phones I’ve owned), the experience simply does not rival other mobile OS competitors in the space (notably the iPhone and Android, but also RIM’s Blackberry OS which has very strong traction in North America).

    The mobility space is undeniably the “new battleground” in computing.  True, the desktop and laptop computer space continually has iterations of improvement both in software and hardware but the industry has largely become commoditized.  The truth of the matter is that consumers, businesses, software vendors, developers and designers are all looking to the smart device market as the new frontier of computing and a focus for building useful, new and innovative software experiences.  Without a doubt, the market for smart device software has become white-hot.

     

    Microsoft’s Strategy with Windows Phone 7 Series:  The User Experience Comes First

    Microsoft believes that a user’s affinity with a given mobile platform is with the experience it provides.  That is to say, the platform allows the user to be the most productive and delighted when using the device.  While the hardware devices themselves are a large part of this experience (nobody wants a clunky-looking smart device), I would argue it isn’t the main reason people are intrigued and itching to get into the industry.  It’s the ability to create powerful user experiences through software that are driving this fervor in the mobile space.  The hardware in of itself can shift the paradigm (see:  iPhone) if the features of the handset have compelling functionality (such as the accelerometer and multi-touch), it’s the software that ultimately drives the experience and differentiates one mobility platform from another.  With this in mind, the Windows Phone 7 Series product team spent much of their time and focus making the experience as user-centric as possible, thereby making the user the most important part of the experience (see a video on this here – please note that you may be required to sign in to view it; the sign-up is free, however).

    To get a feel for what the Windows Phone 7 Series experience is like, check out the following video:

     

    Building Compelling User Experiences for Windows Phone 7 Series:  Designers and Developers are First-Class Citizens in this Process

    One thing Microsoft understands is its partner community.  You hear it coming from almost anyone who works at Microsoft:  we are successful only when our partners are successful.  As such, we are working hard to make sure that you, as a designer or developer, can build the best smart device experiences on our platform with minimal effort and minimum barrier to entry.

    Microsoft will be providing several compelling technologies to build great applications for Windows Phone 7 Series, many of which will use or build on skillsets designers and developers may already have. While as of right now, details on how to develop applications for Windows Phone 7 Series are a little light,  more application development details will be forthcoming at our MIX10 event March15th through 17th (if you register before February 21st you can save $200 off of the registration fee).  You can expect many more details throughout the coming months and in particular at MIX10 where several breakout sessions have been dedicated to the design and development of applications for Windows Phone 7 Series.

    As a Windows Phone 7 Series specialist from Microsoft Canada, I will be at this event, so if you have questions or want to book some time with me at the event, let me know!  I can be reached at paul<dot>laberge<at>microsoft<dot>com or via my Twitter handle, @plaberge.

    While I don’t have much information to share with you on the application design and development process yet, rest assured it is coming and once we have publicized that information I will be very happy to go through it with you in more detail.

     

    So, What’s in the Box?

    I’ve listed some of the most interesting features that will be included in Windows Phone 7 Series below.  While this is obviously not an exhaustive list, this should be enough to get you thinking about what the platform can do:

    • Capacitive Multi-Touch Screen:  The screen for Windows Phone 7 Series will feature 4-point multi-touch. 
    • Task-Centric UI:  The UI focuses around what is most important to the user rather than having to navigate through several apps to get to what you want.  This is accomplished through the use of…
    • Tiles: At first glance, tiles are just a fancy name for icons, but it’s much more than that.  A tile might take the form of an application’s icon, or, more intersesting, bits of user-centric information.  These tiles can be customised by the user to help get access to the information most important to him/her (example:  a tile linking to the user’s Facebook or Twitter profile).
    • Accelerometer and automatic screen rotation:  The ability to sense and capture motion from the hardware.
    • Games:  Yes, Windows Phone 7 Series will allow you to run/build games which can also include linkage to XBox Live
    • Consistency across hardware buttons:  Each Windows 7 Phone Series-enabled smart device will have 3 buttons – a Windows (aka:  “Start”) button, a Back button, and a dedicated Search button linking to…
    • Context-Sensitive Search:  Search allows you to find info locally to your smart device and also web search.  The search results are context-sensitive, meaning, for example, if you are looking for an address, it will launch Bing Maps.  If you’re looking for a email it will look for that email locally or on your email server.
    • Social capabilities:  You have the ability to manage and track your friends through your Windows Phone 7 Series smart device across multiple email clients and social networking applications.
    • A new version of IE:  Microsoft has stated that the browser included with Windows Phone 7 Series will be the most advanced browser we have produced.
    • Media:  The ability to store and play media (music, photos and video) is native to Windows Phone 7 Series.  If you are familiar with the Zune HD interface, this will look very familiar to you.
    • Mail and Calendar:  Very rich functionality associated with email and calendar functionality is included in the platform (which you would expect, of course!)

    Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list but it does provide a list of features that might be compelling to software developers and designers. 

     

    -Paul

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Heralding in the Immersive Online Olympic Experience in Canada

    • 0 Comments

    Today represents a very important day for our country – the start of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games.  Over the next 2 weeks, we are going to be witness to some incredible athleticism and stories with the world united through sport.

    I can remember vividly watching previous Olympic Games in front of the television, marveling at the sheer talent and determination of the Olympic athletes in their quest for not only Olympic medals, but also personal bests and the pride of representing their country.  The television networks did a very good job at covering all of the activity in a way that allowed you to maximize the Olympic experience from your living room.

    That being said, there are limitations associated with watching such a grand event on the television.  The sheer number of concurrent events means that you can’t always watch an event that you wish to see; the television network will carry events that give them the “best bang for the buck” (hey, they paid big money for the rights to broadcast the content so it only makes sense that high priority events take precedence over other events).  While, for the most part, this isn’t a huge issue, it does limit how you experience the Games in general.

    With the advent of rich media on the internet, we have an opportunity to truly shape how large events such as the Olympics will be viewed moving forward.  The fact that the internet is, by nature, interactive means that we have the ability to cater the viewing experience for an event to almost whatever you want it to be. 

    In 2008, Microsoft partnered with NBC in the United States to stream the Beijing Olympics via Silverlight, our rich online experience platform.  The results of this endeavour were beyond successful.  For example, in the 2 weeks of the 2008 Olympics, the Silverlight-powered NBCOlympics.com site experienced:

    • An average online viewing time per session of 27 minutes (the average viewing session time for internet video is around 3 minutes)
    • 1.3 billion page views
    • 50+ million unique visitors
    • 70 million video streams
    • 10 million hours of video watched 
    • An average of 5,000 on-demand video clips every day
    • Hundreds of highlights produced every day, delivered to all the major computer platforms (Windows, Mac OS X and Linux)
    CTVO_400x400[1] RDSo_400x400[1]
     Silverlight_h_rgb[1]

    With the success from this event, Microsoft has partnered with CTV and its affiliates to provide the same immersive experience for the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver that US-based visitors to NBCOlympics.com had for the Beijing Olympics (and, for the record, NBC has also renewed the partnership with Microsoft for these Olympic Games as well).

    When the games officially open on the evening of Friday, February 12, 2010, Canadians will be able to watch the Olympics from their computer through Silverlight.  This experience will allow Canadians full access to every event, both live and on-demand in High Definition with interactive features that will allow the user to select info on the athletes competing, multiple camera angles and the like. 

    To access this interactive multimedia portal, simply go to CTVOlympics.ca (for English content) or RDSOlympiques.ca (for French content). 

    In addition to the online video and immersive experience through these two portals, Microsoft has also partnered with CTV on a number of other 2010 Vancouver Olympic fronts.  For example:

    ie8_h2_rgb[1] Internet Explorer 8
    Download the customized IE8 browser (English, Français) for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.  Install and enjoy web slices for IE8 specific to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics experience, including Headline News (English, Français), Photos (English, Français) and Video (English, Français).  If you have IE8 but are unsure of how to install a webslice, check out this link to learn how.

    bing_rgb[1]

    Bing Visual Search and Instant Answers
    With Bing, you can search athlete profiles and Olympic events in a visual manner, making it fun and easy to find information pertaining to the Vancouver Games.

    Torch Relay with Bing Maps
    See where the Olympic torch has been and the route it has taken across our country to arrive at the Olympic stadium in an interactive way with Bing Maps.

    XBL[1]

    See On-Demand Content through XBox Live
    If you have an XBox Live Gold account, you can view on-demand content from the 2010 Olympics directly from your XBox 360 console.

    With the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Microsoft, along with CTV, has provided a new world of interactivity for a truly immersive multimedia experience.  I think it’s fair to say that as we see more of these types of opportunities, we will be seeing a change in how we experience multimedia events both at home and abroad.

    - Paul

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    It’s a big day for RIA!

    • 0 Comments

    Today is a landmark launch day for anyone building Rich Internet Applications (also known as RIAs), particularly those that build compelling web-enabled experiences on the Microsoft platform.

    We launched 2 new product versions today and it’s something all of us at Microsoft are very excited about:  Silverlight 3 and Expression Studio 3.

    Silverlight 3 represents a big change in how you can build RIAs in .NET.  In a nutshell, below are some of the enhancements and new features you can use with Silverlight:

    • Out-of-Browser Experience:  Build RIA applications that don’t require a browser to run.  This is a big deal as it means that you can use Silverlight to create connected desktop experiences that run on any Silverlight 3-supported platform.
    • GPU Acceleration:  One of the hurdles many Silverlight developers and designers needed to overcome in prior versions of the platform was dealing with (or rather “faking” or “hacking”) 3D support within Silverlight.  This was due to the fact you couldn’t take advantage of the GPU hardware on the PC to deliver the 3D experiences you wanted to build.  With Silverlight 3, now you can leverage the PC’s GPU.
    • Smooth Streaming Video:  Everyone is familiar with the experience of choppy video online.  Smooth HD Streaming has been incorporated into Silverlight 3 to help alleviate that problem.  In essence, Smooth Streaming allows the streaming server and the Silverlight plugin to determine your bandwidth and adjust the quality of the stream to best fit your bandwidth restrictions.  There is a good demo of this here.
    • Development and Design Support:  The Silverlight 3 SDK provides over 100 new UI controls that Designers and Developers can use out of the box in their Silverlight apps.  It also provides a newly introduced navigation framework that helps with deep-linking and back/forward browser control.  It also provides much richer network support.
    • Developer Tools:  With the launch of Silverlight 3, we also provide the tools for building Silverlight 3 applications in Visual Studio.  It’s also your choice where to get these tools.  You can get them using the Web Platform Installer or through the traditional channel at the Silverlight Dev Site.

    You may have noticed I talked about developer tool support but I didn’t spend any time on Designer tools.  That’s because I want to focus a bit on the design tools in the section below.  Expression Studio 3 has been launched (although Expression Blend, the interactive design tool has been launched in RC form for now).  There is several cool things we have added into the Expression suite of tools for Version 3 (including full support for Silverlight 3).  I want to highlight the new features of two of the tools here, namely Expression Blend and Expression Web:

    • Expression Blend 3 RC
      • SketchFlow:  This is a huge productivity gainer for developers.  Remember the days of sketching a screen design and app workflow on a napkin to show to the client?  Now you can do the same thing with Expression Blend without having to do manual sketches, wireframes and then build the actual app.  You can do this as one step now.
      • Intellisense support:  If you like to get into the code while using Expression Blend, you now have Intellisense support within the tool (including intellisense for C#, VB and XAML).
      • TFS Integration:  “Does Expression Blend support for code repositories (including check-in and check-out)?”  I have been asked this question many times and the answer was always a let down.  My answer was basically “save the work you did in Blend, go back to Visual Studio and check in the code assets from there”.  Well, no more – I’m happy to say that Blend now supports the ability to check your project assets into Team Foundation Server, Microsoft’s code repository tool.
    • Expression Web 3
      • SuperPreview:  If you design websites, you are probably acutely aware of the pain that is testing your web application for rendering in multiple browsers.  Your process for this testing likely included multiple machines, constant flipping back and forth between browser windows and you still ended up missing incompatibilities.  SuperPreview fixes a lot of this pain by providing you with a way to look at how your website will render in multiple browsers, side-by-side with tools that help you identify inconsistencies.
      • New User Interface:  Expression Web is no longer “the tool in Expression that doesn’t look like the other tools”.  In keeping with design consistency, Expression Web now sports the slick, dark grey IDE UI that the rest of the tools do.
      • Auto-Hide Panels:  Screen real estate is valuable as a website designer.  You usually need to use most of the space on the screen to see how the website looks, viewing the actual code and the like.  Tool panels often get in the way.  With Expression Web 3, you have the ability to hide these panels as you see fit, which is very helpful when all you want to do is look at the code!

    This is just a very quick summary of some of the things we have delivered in Silverlight 3 and Expression 3.  For more detailed info on these items, I encourage you to take a look at the following resources:

     

    -Paul

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    The Art of SEO and IIS

    • 1 Comments

    If you develop/design public websites for your customers, you likely already know first-hand how important a good Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy is to its success.  Generating traffic to a website is hard and is downright impossible to do well without making it easy for internet search engines like Bing, Google or Yahoo! to find the content on your site and index it properly for search queries.

    Anybody that has been following most of the events I have been presenting of late knows that I think the Microsoft Web Platform Installer (WPI) is kind of a big thing.  If you’ve seen or played with the WPI, you know how useful it can be for laying the groundwork for you to build your web solution on top of.  If you haven’t seen it yet, it may interest you to watch my webcast on the WPI on-demand here. You may be wondering how the WPI and SEO are linked.  Well, today, Microsoft announced a new feature added to the WPI called the IIS Search Engine Optimization Toolkit.  You can download the SEO toolkit on its own from the link, but most web developers/designers building a site hosted on IIS will use the WPI to install it.

    SEO-Toolkit-SMALL[1] The initial announcement of this new feature of IIS came from the blog of Microsoft’s corporate VP for the .NET Developer Platform and serious technical wizard, Scott Guthrie.  He gives a very detailed tour of the IIS SEO Toolkit in that post so if you want to know the nitty gritty details, I would invite you to take a look at the post. 

    In a nutshell, the IIS7 SEO Toolkit can:

    • Improve the volume and quality of traffic to your website from search engines
    • Control how search engines access and display your web content
    • Tell search engines about locations on your site available for indexing

    The IIS7 SEO Toolkit contains:

    • Site Analysis tools to help you identify and fix SEO-related issues on your site
    • User friendly tools to manage robot and spider exclusions
    • A user interface for sitemaps and managing sitemap indices

    Below are important links for the IIS7 SEO Toolkit:

     

    So if you’re building public websites where traffic is an important consideration, you may want to check this tool out.

    -Paul

     

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Event: Make Web, Not War Episode 2009

    • 1 Comments

    As a solution provider, the web presents an ever increasing opportunity to grow your business.  As more and more customers (and potential customers!) look to the web as a way to broaden their message, increase their own revenue and lower their cost of doing business in general, you have the opportunity to make a real impact to those businesses with the skills you have in building web solutions.

    It is for this reason that Microsoft Canada has created the Make Web, Not War Episode 2009 in-person event.  We know that Microsoft technologies are only part of a larger ecosystem of web platform technologies out there.  What many people may not realize is that Microsoft is playing an ever increasing role in reaching out to web solution providers that aren’t traditionally building web software on Windows.

    Make Web, Not War Episode 2009 is a 2-city tour reaching out to web solution enthusiasts, whether you build your solutions on Windows or not.  The Vancouver stop is on Tuesday, June 2nd and the Toronto stop is on Wednesday, June 10.  For details on the specific agenda items for each of these cities, please visit the website but in a nutshell, we have a number of speakers from both enterprise and open source communities speaking about how Windows is a great platform to build web solutions on.  It will certainly not be the only platform you will likely build web solutions on, but you may very well find that expanding your skillsets to include providing Windows-based web solutions may well be worth your while.

    Value Proposition:

    • Hear from other Web Partners who build on Open Source & Microsoft technologies
    • Network with fellow members of the Web Community
    • Learn about the latest Microsoft technologies & how they work with Open Source
    • Get technical training to build your Web Development portfolio
    • Win prizes & get your Web Warrior DVD of all the latest Microsoft Web Resources

    Some of the topics we’ll be covering between Vancouver and Toronto:

    • Building great WordPress sites with Expression Web (Vancouver)
    • How DigiTweet (an open source WPF-based Twitter client) was built (Toronto)
    • The business opportunity on the web (Vancouver and Toronto)
    • How Windows Hosting can help you build web solutions and your web business (Vancouver and Toronto

    There is still limited seating available for both Vancouver and Toronto, so if you’re interested please register online at Make Web, Not War Episode 2009!

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Line of Business Silverlight Apps that Rock

    • 0 Comments

    Silverlight, Microsoft’s plug-in for delivering cross-platform Rich Internet Applications (RIA) and experiences has been out for a while now.  The first, JavaScript-only version was released at Microsoft’s MIX07 conference in May of 2007.  Subsequently, Silverlight 2 (the first .NET-enabled version) was released as a go-live technology shortly following the 2008 Beijing Olympics where the beta version of Silverlight 2 had a stellar performance providing a truly immersive experience for viewing the Olympics online.  Silverlight 3, the newly announced next version of the plug-in was introduced in beta version at MIX09 back in March of this year has provided increased buzz and is looking like a very promising, forward-looking platform for RIA experiences.

    Given the amount of time the platform has now been available, we’re starting to see some incredible creativity and very focused, user-centric applications being built for Silverlight.  I’m very excited about many of these applications and solutions for both business and consumer scenarios and I want to share some of these great experiences with you.  This first post will be about business-oriented Silverlight applications and a subsequent post will highlight some consumer-oriented applications.

    It used to be that most rich experiences on the web were focused on public-facing or consumer-based applications.  It makes sense; we often see user-centric innovation outside the firewall before we see it inside due to the cost of re-vamping existing line of business applications as well as focusing investment on activities that directly impact customers positively.  While that is certainly still true, we are seeing business from all sorts of industries adopting user-centric software platforms for internal applications as well as customer-facing business applications.  Below are examples of how you could implement some business-oriented experiences in Silverlight:

    The Patient Journey Demonstrator 

    PatientJourneyDemonstratorThumbnail[1]
    Industry Vertical:  Healthcare
    Focus:  Internal LOB Application


    The Patient Journey Demonstrator is a Silverlight 2 application built by the Microsoft Common User Interface team to demonstrate how Silverlight can positively enable patient management in healthcare scenarios.
    Industry Vertical:  Financial Services
    Focus:  Customer-Facing Application


    The Woodgrove Financial demo application (built by Infusion)was built to provide inspiration as to how you might be able to deliver a rich experience to customers using an online banking system.  While it is likely that an online banking site would not be built entirely in Silverlight, it is very interesting to see how a bank might implement important pieces of functionality with Silverlight to create a customer-focused experience.
    Woodgrove Financial

    WoodgroveBankingThumbnail[1]
    Stock Trader Reference Application

    StockTraderThumbnail[1]
    Industry Vertical:  Financial Services
    Focus:  Customer & Internal LOB Application


    The Stock Trader Reference Application is included in the Microsoft Patterns & Practices team’s Composite Application Guidance for WPF and Silverlight.  This application is meant to be a demonstration of the types of applications you can build using a composite architecture (i.e.:  modularizing your UI into components to make it more manageable, maintainable and reusable).
    Industry Vertical:  Manufacturing
    Focus:  Internal LOB Application


    The Factories Map application demo built by ComponentOne is a mashup using Virtual Earth, Silverlight (via the Virtual Earth Silverlight Map Control) and internal data to provide a visualization of where a company’s assets are located worldwide as well as provide efficiency and productivity data for its factories.  The power of this demo is in the ability for solution providers to provide effective data visualization solutions at the fingertips of employees.
    Factories Map

    FactoriesMapThumbnail[1]
    Stock Portfolio

    StockPortfolioThumbnail[1]
    Industry Vertical:  Financial Services
    Focus:  Customer & Internal LOB Application


    Another demo application delivered by ComponentOne is the Stock Portfolio application.  The scenario to this application is similar to that of the Stock Trader Reference Application above, but the implementation is different and shows how you can deliver an effective user interface for stock traders through data visualization and UI customization through various different and disparate data feeds.

    These are just a few of the LOB-focused applications we are seeing built in Silverlight.  If you have an LOB application built in Silverlight that you would like to share, please let me know by commenting!

    Paul

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Guest Post: MIX09 Inspirations: Back to the Drawing Board

    • 1 Comments

    From now through the end of the MIX09 conference in Las Vegas, Rob Burke will be providing his insights from the conference on a daily basis.

    RobBurkeBioPicSmallCAZH1CS5

    Robert Burke is a Toronto-based IT Consultant who’s attending his fourth MIX event this year.  By day he’s knee-deep in Microsoft User Experience technologies, including Silverlight and the Windows Presentation Foundation, but his background includes stuff like artificial intelligence, interactive installations, graphics and biometrics.  He attended the first two MIXes as a member of Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group, and the second two as Principal Consultant of Carrington Technologies.  His website is at http://robburke.net and his shiny new Twitter account is @rob_burke.

    The original post by Rob can be found here.

    In the hope they may also inspire you, here are four other sources of inspiration I found at MIX09,

    Bill Buxton at MIX09 Third Place
    1. Bill Buxton at MIX09 Third Place

    1. Bill Buxton’s visit to “The Third Place.” He cites Henry Dreyfuss’s “Designing for People” as the next must-read book after his (preferably 1st Ed.). Render in the correct fidelity. Don’t rely on a “muse.” Consider minimally five alternatives. Persona and “Place-ona.” “Design is Choice.”

    Johnny Lee at TED
    2. Johnny Lee and HCI wonders

    2. Johnny Lee’s HCI talk. @shanselman a fanboi too. Know Johnny? Watch his MIX talk. Don’t know him yet? Check his TED talk first, which was worthy of a standing ovation. Johnny on the future of HCI: Dive off today’s local maxima. Want more HCI? Follow UIST, SigGraph, SigCHI, UBICOMP.

    Joe Fletcher MIX09 Surface Session - already online!
    3. Joe Fletcher Surface Session - online!

    3. Joseph Fletcher delivered a mightily polished Touch Computing presentation yesterday, and the session video is already online! Surface UX is “Hyper-real,” and Surface is Social, Seamless, Spatial.

    MmmmmUrl
    4. MmmmmUrl

    4. Purdy & Sells delivered an energetic talk on their RESTful DSL MUrl. Interested in languages, human and machine? “Oslo” and “M” are sexy. Probably this a good place to start. Their MIX09 Session is here.

    Back to the Drawing Board - Literally

    Bill Buxton during the second MIX09 keynote
    Bill Buxton during the second MIX09 keynote

    To sum it up, there are four things I carried away from MIX09:

    1. Bill Buxton urges us to focus on people, and craft our technology with informed design.
    2. Johnny Lee says we’ll need to get off our local maxima and be uncomfortable before we can progress.
    3. Joseph Fletcher and his team want to invent a totally new paradigm.
    4. Purdy and Sells were among speakers and teams too numerous to mention who introduced potentially game-changing technologies with which we can innovate.

    This reaction in our community is consistent with the global sense of a need for something new.  Put simply, the status quo isn’t good enough any more.

    This message was embodied by Deborah Adler.  There’s a reason why Microsoft so boldly chose to focus half a keynote on Ms. Adler’s contribution — it’s time for us to stop thinking like techies, and start thinking about the people using our creations, and the contexts in which they’ll be using them.

    To get there, we were all encouraged to use unconventional tools, and reminded that big ideas can come from going back to basics: a sheet of paper and a decent pen.

    I’m sure I’ll see more techies at the local cafe, rubbing elbows with thinkers who have always used these basic methods to achieve greatness.

    Until Next Year…

    As I type, the sessions are coming online at the VisitMIX site. Through a fog of tweets and jetlag this morning in Toronto, I was struck hard that MIX has made me want to return to doing the stuff that brought me here in the first place, whatever that means for me in 2009.

    I want to extend my thanks to the organizers of MIX for so much inspiration, and to the Microsoft Canada team for letting me share MIX09 with you.

    MIX09 boldly declared that “The Next Web” is a place where design matters.  We were taught to seek returns on user experiences, and think first about how our creations influence lives.  This is a future I want to help invent.

    Looking forward to continuing the discussion. You can always find me at robburke.net.

     

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Guest Post: MIX09 Day 2: “Return on Experience”

    • 1 Comments

    From now through the end of the MIX09 conference in Las Vegas, Rob Burke will be providing his insights from the conference on a daily basis.

    RobBurkeBioPicSmallCATKR3TE

    Robert Burke is a Toronto-based IT Consultant who’s attending his fourth MIX event this year.  By day he’s knee-deep in Microsoft User Experience technologies, including Silverlight and the Windows Presentation Foundation, but his background includes stuff like artificial intelligence, interactive installations, graphics and biometrics.  He attended the first two MIXes as a member of Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group, and the second two as Principal Consultant of Carrington Technologies.  His website is at http://robburke.net and his shiny new Twitter account is @rob_burke.

    The original post by Rob can be found here.

     

    Deborah Alder at MIX09 Keynote
    Deborah Alder at MIX09 Keynote

    Bill Buxton, the Spirit of MIX09 (who, incidentally, now has a typeface named after him), was very welcome back for this morning’s keynote to introduce Deborah Adler, whose work as principal designer for Target’s ClearRx medicine bottles provided the focus for our discussion about design and its impact on user experience.

    ClearRx Case Study

    Deborah’s research identified and addressed many serious problems with traditional medicine bottles. Her prototype was refined by Target into the ClearRx products, and the resulting “return on experience” includes brand awareness for Target — and, much more importantly, the potential to change behavior and save human lives.

    Her advice to us was twofold - to have a love affair with our customers, and to bring our design skills to bear both humanly and humanely.

    There is more information about Deborah’s work at the Target:Health site.

    [Update: I just saw Robby Ingebretsen's post and agree with him - these two keynotes together (and particularly, Deborah and Bill's contributions) made for the best and most inspiring MIX keynotes yet.]

    Clear Rx
    Clear Rx (link goes to Target ClearRx site)

    IE8: In other keynote news, Dean Hachamovitch announced that Internet Explorer 8 was released today.

    For more info: You can now watch streaming video of the keynotes (for both days) here, and Tim Sneath’s thorough Play-by-Play is here and here.

    The Cloud?

    So I expected today’s keynote was going to be about the Cloud. I was totally wrong.  But it’s all good.

    My Mind Map, with Day 2 on the bottom, now makes more sense: the “Return on Experience” discussion provides the roots for everything we’ve discussed at MIX09 this week.

    MIX09 Keynote Mind Map - Days 1 and 2
    MIX09 Keynote Mind Map - Days 1 and 2 - with Return on Experience at the root

    p.s. More Misc MIX notes on the rest of Day 2 in a future post — I am shattered tonight. Johnny Lee’s HCI talk was particularly memorable (link goes to his killer TED talk).

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  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Guest Post: MIX09 Day 1: The “Software” in “Software + Services”

    • 1 Comments

    From now through the end of the MIX09 conference in Las Vegas, Rob Burke will be providing his insights from the conference on a daily basis.

    RobBurkeBioPicSmall[1]

    Robert Burke is a Toronto-based IT Consultant who’s attending his fourth MIX event this year.  By day he’s knee-deep in Microsoft User Experience technologies, including Silverlight and the Windows Presentation Foundation, but his background includes stuff like artificial intelligence, interactive installations, graphics and biometrics.  He attended the first two MIXes as a member of Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group, and the second two as Principal Consultant of Carrington Technologies.  His website is at http://robburke.net and his shiny new Twitter account is @rob_burke.

    The original post by Rob can be found here.

    Today’s MIX09 Day 1 Keynote and Sessions put the ‘Software’ into Microsoft’s ‘Software plus Services’ vision.

    It was the “feet on [presentation layer] ground” bit, made memorable by the energetic call to action delivered by Bill Buxton to get things started. His job was to deliver the “what”, and the Blend team is helping provide the “how.”

    MIX09 Keynote: Bill Buxton
    MIX09 Keynote: Bill Buxton

    Hotlinked Play-By-Play

    Tim Sneath has a thorough and thoughtfully hotlinked play-by-play of the keynote in two parts - here and here.  And fellow Canadian Jean-Luc David took over 500 keynote photos which I am sure he will filter before he uploads them here on Flickr, because apparently the man does not need sleep!

    In the spirit of Bill’s Sketching User Experiences, I drew a mindmap, even though I have all the artistic ability of a slug (see below).

    Blend 3 and SketchFlow

    The most important words on my entire mind map the morning were “THEY HAVE CHANNELLED BUXTON”.

    SketchFlow in Blend 3 looks superb. SketchFlow and its player will, unquestionably, change the way I flesh out user experiences to clients and get their feedback.  It will be very interesting to see how this tool actually gets used in practice, and evolves as designers and developers embrace it.  It’s not SketchFlow’s intent to replace all other forms of sketching, but rather to augment them with something innovative and useful.  I hope it will also improve developer/designer communication, by providing a tool and talking point that both can use.

    MIX09 Keynote: ScottGu sporting red
    MIX09 Keynote: ScottGu sporting red

    Silverlight 3

    Although nothing surprised me per se during the Silverlight 3 announcements, that was a good thing. There are significant improvement in v3, and answers to some (but not all) hopes.

    The very promising: Updates like offline capabilities, server data push (caching on client), VisualStateManager invalid states and validation, Merged ResourceDictionaries, etc., that will address important shortcomings and challenges for people building Silverlight line-of-business apps.  Things like SaveFileDialog.

    The important: Better text (desperately needed), library caching (for reducing download time - how many of my SL2 apps bundle whittled-down bits of the SL Toolkit?), sample data.

    The cool: GPU support (opt-in @ plug-in and control levels). Multitouch support. Perspective 3D, which will be much more approachable than the 3D support in WPF, and address most of the scenarios where 3D adds UX value.  Pixel Shader effects - which aren’t hardware accelerated, but look good. Pixel and Bitmap APIs which open up new scenarios.

    The awesome postscript.: Siverlight 3.0 runtime is actually 30k smaller than Silverlight 2! Madness!

    The things I hoped for but didn’t find in v3: Commanding, Printing (unless you count Nikhil’s “make an ASP.NET page and print that” solution), FlowDocument.

    The change in messaging that I didn’t expect: I attended BradA and NikhilK’s Silverlight presentations in the afternoon for more information about building business apps in Silverlight 3, and feel like I need a little more time for all of it to settle in.  The core message seems to have shifted a bit: from “you can run Silverlight on any web server”" to “you can run Silverlight anywhere, but it’s better together with ASP.NET, and you can use ASP.NET to obtain some things you’re looking for in Silverlight, like SEO and Printing.”  I’m also a little foggy on how some of the this ‘prescriptive framework’ all fits into where my mind was going with Prism and MVVM for Silverlight, as proposed by the Patterns and Practices group.

    IIS Media Services: As someone who’s more Dev than IT Pro, I’m not best qualified to comment on this… but adaptive, on-demand and live streaming sounds and looks pretty amazing.

    The New Microsoft-ism: It’s the verb “to party,” which I heard in contexts such as these:

    “now we can party over this data we got back”, and

    “you can go ahead and party on this query now” or in summary

    “I’m super-jazzed that we can go ahead and party over this data we’ve got back from the DataSource.”

    I expect tomorrow we will party over the cloud.  (The cloud and Azure, although mentioned, were not today’s focus by any stretch).

    And that’s why this MIX09 Keynote half-sketch is really upside down, isn’t it? I should have left the top side of the page to deal with the part that’s “in the clouds!”

    MIX09 Day 1 Keynote Mindmap
    MIX09 Day 1 Keynote Mindmap (would make a nice deep zoom)

     

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Guest Post: MIX09 Welcome Swag (includes Sketching UX book!)

    • 0 Comments

    From now through the end of the MIX09 conference in Las Vegas, Rob Burke will be providing his insights from the conference on a daily basis.

    RobBurkeBioPicSmall[1]

    Robert Burke is a Toronto-based IT Consultant who’s attending his fourth MIX event this year.  By day he’s knee-deep in Microsoft User Experience technologies, including Silverlight and the Windows Presentation Foundation, but his background includes stuff like artificial intelligence, interactive installations, graphics and biometrics.  He attended the first two MIXes as a member of Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group, and the second two as Principal Consultant of Carrington Technologies.  His website is at http://robburke.net and his shiny new Twitter account is @rob_burke.

     

     

    MIX09 Swag Bag
    MIX09 Swag Bag

    This year’s Swag Bag Contents:

    • 1 Sketching User Experiences book (highly cool - I already gave my previous copy to a friend)
    • 1 MIX09 Notebook (also cool -this image does not do justice to the pages of the notebook, which alternate graph and plain. Session eval forms attached to back.)
    • 1 MIX09 T-Shirt with “<3 Your Web” slogan
    • 1 “Live at Kexp” Music CD (KEXP is a non-profit Seattle-based Radio Station)

    MIX09 Mystery Sticker
    MIX09 Mystery Sticker

    • 1 Sticker Thingamayoke which I have yet to grok (at first I thought it was maybe something that Lego Mindstorms sensors could do image recognition with or something, now it looks to me like an abstract representation of web content)
    • 1 Clip-On Flashlight
    • 1 Pen
    • 1 Water Bottle - handy for us winter-pasty Canoodians, as it is 22 degrees Celsius here and sunny!
    • 1 Coffee Mug
    • Misc Advertisements (not pictured)

    For reference, here’s what was in the MIX07 Swag.

    MIX07 Welcome Swag
    MIX07 Welcome Swag

    I’m most grateful for another copy of Buxton’s insightful book!

    I wonder if we’ll have any software to play with tomorrow, or if we’ll be downloading lab content ourselves.  I always come armed with extra storage to events like these in case I need to truck home some VPCs.

     

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  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    A Brief History of MIX: Feet on Ground, Eyes on Cloud

    • 1 Comments

    From now through the end of the MIX09 conference in Las Vegas, Rob Burke will be providing his insights from the conference on a daily basis.

    RobBurkeBioPicSmall[1]

    Robert Burke is a Toronto-based IT Consultant who’s attending his fourth MIX event this year.  By day he’s knee-deep in Microsoft User Experience technologies, including Silverlight and the Windows Presentation Foundation, but his background includes stuff like artificial intelligence, interactive installations, graphics and biometrics.  He attended the first two MIXes as a member of Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group, and the second two as Principal Consultant of Carrington Technologies.  His website is at http://robburke.net and his shiny new Twitter account is @rob_burke.

    What can we expect at this week’s intersection of design and technology in Las Vegas?

    Before a week for looking forward, a brief pause and a quick look back for context.

    MIX06: “The Next Web Now.”

    3 years ago, Microsoft launched this hip series of conferences, inviting a cross-platform audience of business decision makers, developers and designers (…wait… designers?!).

    The inaugural keynote explored the opportunities that would emerge as the internet “evolves… and ‘web’ and ‘application’ concepts merge.”

    It was the only MIX keynote to star Bill Gates as Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect, and featured a fireside chat between Bill and Tim O’Reilly, and Bill’s mea culpa about the state of IE6.

    MIX07: “A 72-Hour Conversation”

    The conference’s sophomore year was billed as a “72-hour conversation” at a time when the rampant success of social networking was all the buzz.

    Ray Ozzie took the helm, WPF/E got its new look and name, and so we saw .NET boldly go cross-browser, cross-platform - at least, in CTP form.

    MIX08

    Loosely, the following year’s theme was (loosely) connected things: their impact on the individual, their impact on the organization.  “Small pieces, loosely joined” was I believe how Ray put it.

    And then there were Rich Internet Applications. Silverlight 2.0, the highly anticipated enabler, went Beta.  Designers (I thought) were finally somewhat understood, even if their Microsoft toolset was still fermenting.

    There was an explicit expectation set by Ray, Steve and Company that MIX08 represented but one of several steps on the road to something big at the PDC coming in the autumn.

    PDC2008

    Then, months later, Silverlight 2.0 was unleashed on the wild, with 3.0 already on the horizon. But wait… were we even talking about the presentation layer any more, or, with Silverlight’s eventual impact firmly impressed upon us, had we moved on to discuss awesome sky-plumbing instead?

    We’re talkin’ Azure, Live Services too numerous to mention, data and enterprise service buses and meshes in the sky, a bookstore that got there first, Models and Domain-Specific Languages (see Don Box’s characterization of this dreadfully wond’rous craic), and so much more, all available streamed online now for your viewing pleasure.

    MIX09

    So we begin MIX09 with feet tentatively on the presentation layer, but eyes on this intriguing Cloud on the horizon.

    The MIX09 Session List alone would suggest an emphasis (by session number) on:

    • Silverlight (31) and UI/UX (16),
    • Azure (11) and Live Services (8),
      and
    • ASP.NET (14)

    Bill Gates at MIX06 

    Bill Gates at MIX06

     

    Ray Ozzie and ScottGu at MIX07

    Ray Ozzie and ScottGu at MIX07

     

    SteveB and GuyK at MIX08

    SteveB and GuyK at MIX08

     

    I mentioned previously that I visit MIX for the buzz.  This week I’m there again to meet, to chat, and to think — and specifically, to ask what should we do with all this  stuff? What could I do for my clients? For their organizations? For my own projects?

    Even if you’re not able to attend, the keynote will be streamed live, and you’ll have a chance to ask ScottGu some questions online 30 minutes after it’s over.

    We’re three years into this MIX journey to The Next Web.  This week, we expect to gain insight into Microsoft’s perspective on the road ahead.  I’m going to try to write here daily, and figure out how to use this Twitter thing as well.  Inspired by keynote speaker Bill Buxton, I may even try my hand at a little sketching, and change up my technology choices as an audience member for the keynote and sessions. (hint: thinking of leaving the laptop behind).

    Right - that’s enough context - I’m off to Vegas to Mix things up a little!

     

    This blog post was originally posted at http://robburke.net/2009/03/16/a-brief-history-of-mix-feet-on-ground-eyes-on-cloud/.

     

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